Sofia is starting Kindergaten and we finally have her enrolled in such a great school, yay.
Above all I will say, everyone's "best" is different. And everyone's options too! This said, I will not be telling you what to look for exactly, but instead: what to ask, what options to look into, what to consider and think about so that you can make the best decision for YOU!
What qualities will meet your child's needs? What kind of learner is your child? Working in groups? Alone? Particularly skilled in one subject? Need extra support? Need a structure environment or more open and flexible? What kind of school do you want for your child? I would suggest GOING to tour a few and seeing different philosophies in person if you don't know yet!
Economically speaking: what can you afford? This is crucial too in order to make a decision. Look at costs. However, also remember if you are a lower income family, a lot of pricey private schools offer financial assistance. So don't let your budget stop you from exploring some private schools! And remember, you CAN apply to a different public school too even if it is not the one assigned to you, and there are some public or charter schools that hold lotteries each year too.
Languages: do you need a specific language spoken at the school? Immersion, or weekly classes?
Sports: as they grow, do you want them to have access to sports? What sports does the school offer in their after-school program?
After school program: most Elementary schools finish mid-day. Do you need after-school care? What programs do they offer in-school? Which activities are offered? Are they activities your child will love? What's the cost of the after-school program?
Meet other families, meet other kids. The community is key.
Do you want a religious school? What values and morals are important to you?
Meet the director, the teachers, and ask questions: what's their teaching style, what's their teaching philosophy, how do they "discipline", what's their approach to encouraging learning, how do they encourage learning, how often are they indoors vs outdoors? How do they include social topics?
What's the teacher to student ratio? How big are the classes? How is individual student attention? Do children work in small groups? Will they be able to help your child build strengths and help in weaker areas in positive ways? How will your child do in this environment? Is it warm and inviting? Or cold and institutional? What kind of work is in the walls? Is it well equipped? Is it play-based in early grades? Do teachers make real connections with students? Do students seem excited and curious? Do teachers help kids question things and get inspired or is there only one right answer?
Do they have homework? What is the homework and discipline policy? Are there time-outs? Are there expulsions? What happens if homework is not done?
Do they imply political views? Do they push any particular political agenda?
How does the school address emotional issues? How do they help develop communication skills through social conflicts?
How balanced is the curriculum? What classes are included? How do they "grade"?
Tour the campuses: how clean is it, is there natural light in the classrooms, how friendly is the overall staff, how much outdoor space do they have, do students seem to enjoy being there? Is the library inviting?
How involved are the parents? Do they participate in class & learning? Do they participate as a co-op style? Are they not involved at all? Is there a PTA? How often are meetings? Can parents volunteer? What kind of activities can parents help with?
How does the school communicate with the parents? How does the administration keep parents informed? Is there a good newsletter? How often can parents talk with the teachers? Is email used to communicate with students' teachers? Are teachers available for meetings if needed?
Is material included in the fee? Do they wear uniforms?